Four Words And A Lesson For Life
It so happened that social media was abuzz with the horrifying manner in which a hospital had charged lakhs of rupees for the treatment of a girl for dengue. Sadly, she couldn’t survive.
As nearly everyone was indulging in talks about the whole event by demanding action against the hospital or raising their voice against the vulturine habits of private hospitals, there was one person who’s comments stood out for me. Not necessarily did her words set Twitter on fire – they’d attracted just a few engagements – but fortunately, I happened to stumble upon her tweets. Her words didn’t cry vengeance, nor did they reflect even a shred of animosity. In fact, the calmness about her tweets set her apart from others. The calmness…was almost unnerving.
She had written about how the absolute same thing had happened with her just more than a year ago. Her mother had been hospitalized, and the hospital – quite similar to one already in the news – had raked up a ridiculously huge bill. She’d ended up losing her mother.
I wrote a condolence tweet to her, and then thought about asking a bit more about what exactly had happened. I felt I should write about it so that if anything, people would at least become aware that this blatant looting by hospitals wasn’t a one-off thing. I knew my words would bring about no impact, no person in authority would notice, and even if someone did, he/she wouldn’t act because the incident had gone cold. But yet, I wished to write something. And so, I messaged her.
By then, I only knew two things about her – one, her name, which was Hinal (struck me as a beautiful name), and the other that she’d lost her mother. In retrospect, how incredible is it that the two things I knew about her lay on two extreme ends of the getting-to-know-someone axis. The name is the most commonplace aspect, while the death of a parent is intimately personal. Anyway.
We got to talking about writing as that was a passion we both shared, then I told her how I wanted to write about that tragic episode of her life. She agreed, although a tad hesitant at first, because she told me she’d never been much eager about taking the unpardonable treatment of the hospital and as a consequence her mother’s death to people. Her father was, and so she agreed to share the whole story with me so I could understand better before attempting to write. I expected her to type the whole thing, but she said she wasn’t comfortable doing so, and that she’d rather talk over the phone. I agreed, and we decided upon a time to talk.
The next day at night I called her. After a general exchange of words, I asked her about her mother. These were her first words to me on the issue – “Promise me you won’t cry, or I won’t tell you.” Frankly, I was surprised. Anyone else would’ve said something like – “If I cry, do pardon me.” But not her.
So the talk went on for more than an hour as she recalled every tiny bit of her ordeal – the emotional tribulations, the financial aspect of it all, how one day she’d have hope that her mother was getting better and then the next day it would all seem to get out of hand, how she and her family coped with it, how she yearned to stay close to her mother all the time yet couldn’t because of the goddamn rules of the hospital of restricted timings to meet a patient, how she helped her mother drink water when she wasn’t even able to speak, how her mother at times responded to her presence or words not with words or even a nod of the head but just with a tear gently running down her cheek. And finally, how she’d kept that handkerchief with her with which she’d wiped her mother’s tears when she was nearing her time on this earth.
I cried. Anyone would. But I muffled my cries not to let her know about it. Or maybe she did realize and just didn’t wish to ask me of it in case I felt embarrassed or something.
All this she recounted without a moment of weakness, without even as much as a quaver in her voice, her throat never choked, and neither did she pause anywhere to regain her breath. It astounded me as to how calmly she’d recalled everything, as if a person recites a poem that’s learnt by heart.
Until then, it had been an emotional ride for me, as what all she’d talked of was something I couldn’t even imagine, and didn’t want to either. It had made me cry. It was terribly overwhelming, and all I could think of was – “How did you manage through such a tough phase?”
And then, she said something that turned what had till then been an emotional roller coaster for me – roller coaster because even though majority of her talk had been saddening and heart-breaking, there were moments where I smiled when she talked of the happy times – into a moment of awakening, as if the sun had shown itself from behind the mountains after eternity.
This is what she said – “But I only remember the good times with her. Yes, I do wish I’d been able to see her more towards the end, but I’m extremely happy I had such an amazing mother.” And then came the clincher. “I HAVE NO REGRETS.”
You know, when she said those last words, I couldn’t really evaluate the impregnable strength they had. I was without a doubt amazed at how she’d accepted and taken into her stride this unprecedented happening, and that too with an honest smile adorned on her face, but it was only later that I truly understood the lesson she’d taught me.
In those four words, she’d taught me a lesson for life. She made me realize that it is utterly wrong and demeaning to have regrets with life, with destiny, with god. That to sit and crib and cry over and over again over something that is meant to happen, and that we, as mere mortals have no power over, is a sin in itself. It is us backstabbing life, because life comes with its valleys and peaks, joys and sorrows. Even though life has no manual to help us navigate through, there is one thing that is inherently meant to be understood and accepted – there will be hardships in life.
They say the only constant about life is change. And I say the only surety in life is adversity. It is meant to exist, and show itself from time to time, in various forms, in various degrees of intensity. It is for us to navigate ourselves through these adversities irrespective of how serious a blow they inflict because we have no control over what life throws at us. So why not at least make our best efforts to emerge from every hardship we face with a smile and a staunch desire to move on and not let that moment of our lives overshadow what time we have left.
Some might be thinking that many people lose their parents or siblings or relatives, so what I wrote is only exaggerating Hinal’s viewpoint into something unnecessarily extraordinary or I’m making a hue and cry about the only everlasting truth of life, death. But that isn’t so.
When I talked to Hinal about this, she was just 18. Now imagine losing your mother at that age; imagine having to carry a younger brother through such an ordeal; imagine having to support a broken-down father; imagine having to not lose focus of your studies despite all the earth-shattering happenings around. Tough as hell, right?
This is part of why I came to respect and admire her deeply, and any other person who’s been through a similar situation in life and overcome the same. To smile and continue living (I emphasized the word because Hinal is truly living, and not just trudging along as if being pushed by the ticking clock of time) post such an experience takes courage. Immense courage. And so, her four words became a lesson for life for me. Hope the same goes for you.
To end, I’d like to mention a ridiculously simple thing I’d read about ‘worry’ –
Do you have a problem? No? Then why worry.
Do you have a problem? Yes? Can you do something about it? Yes? Then why worry.
Do you have a problem? Yes? Can you do something about it? No? Then why worry.